Dean and students on What's next for Business Schools

Written on 09 June 2021.


Four students discussed with Dean Emmanuel Métais on the future of Business Schools, for EDHEC Vox Magazine.

A conversation with Emmanuel Métais, Dean of EDHEC Business School, and the students:

In our last issue you introduced EDHEC’s new strategic plan which will serve as a basis for our discussion. Could you sum it up for us?

_ Emmanuel Métais: For twenty years it was “EDHEC for Business”, and we had big victories under this principle, especially in the field of research. But in the world we live in, and the one this generation is building, business per se is not enough. We had to invent ourselves a larger purpose, one in line with the big issues of our time. We needed to “reconcile business and society”, that’s why we have decided to make the shift from EDHEC for Business to EDHEC for Future Generations. Our goal has always been to make an impact, as our motto states. Now it is time to make a bigger, wider, more sustainable impact. We defined three priorities to build a sustainable model and stay competitive: Research, especially oriented towards sustainable finance, Programmes & Education, to broaden the horizons of our curriculums, and Knowledge Transmission Model, to leverage the technological transformations in the field of education and build ourselves a stronger platform.

In light of this new-found purpose, what do you think the role of a Business School should be? And are our students aligned with those goals?

_ E.M.: If I may go frst, I’d say Business Schools will have to make business a powerful tool to serve future generations.

_ Siddhant Chaudhary: I agree with this analysis. Business Schools have to evolve, because future careers won’t look at all like the ones we have today. They will be more fluid and instead of focusing on a single industry or field, we’ll be dealing with several throughout our careers. We need transferable knowledge and experience. Especially regarding technology and data, which will be the most valuable commodity in the coming years.

_ Noa Aknin: When we come to a Business School, regardless of our path before that, we are relatively new and green. Our knowledge and experiences lie within the boundaries of academic education. The real power of a Business School is to reveal ambitions through a large array of experiences, opportunities, classes, people, and so on. Within the three or four years we spend in a Business School, we mature and are exposed to many options. The goal should be to graduate with a clear path forward in mind for at least the next two or three years.

_ Sarmad Fateh: Adding to all this, I’d say the role of a Business School should be to sensitize a wide range of people coming from very different backgrounds to the big challenges our world faces, like sustainability, climate change or increasing wage gaps. We need to become more aware of those issues, and be taught how to move away from shareholder premacy to be able to bring value to all communities and stakeholders. The move EDHEC is making is in line with those of many companies all over the world who are reevaluating their priorities and investment in order to have a more positive impact. The things that have gone wrong in the past can be corrected if we all move in the same direction.

_ Louise Chantrel: Business Schools help us build ourselves while building a better future. They help us not only in figuring out what we want to do but also what kind of world we want to build. That’s what makes them valuable.

How can you use the education you get from EDHEC to become “part of the solution”, as Dean Métais said?

_ N.A.: Being in a Business School, especially a top-ranked one, gives us a voice, and the opportunity to meet like-minded people to collaborate with and make our ideas grow. Having the ability to speak up is how we can have an impact.

_S.C.: We can affect change by being aware and active. Aware by being constantly exposed to the complexities of the world, and active by making our future jobs elements of a positive change. At some point we will need to be willing to compromise profit to create that change.

_L.C.: Business Schools are places to make ideas a reality. I know that if I really want to change something, I’ll have the capacity to do it.

_E.M.: I like the idea of speaking up, like Noa said. Business Schools should give you opportunities to raise your voices, all of them. But I also sincerely hope you’ll get the conviction that you also have a lot of opportunities to act. Entrepreneurship is key, look at our alumni! Some of them chose to act, with ambition and boldness. Like Noa said, Business Schools should act as revealers.

Speaking of revealing talents, what kind of leaders do you think the world needs? What qualities should they possess?

_ N.A.: We need people who want to reinvent things, who see something not quite right and work to change it for the best. We need curious, open-minded individuals, with experiences in different environments, industries or countries. That’s how we can foster empathy.

_ S.F.: The leaders of tomorrow need to be more human-centric, more responsible. Power cannot go unchecked. We need people who understand that proft maximization is not the only way of doing things, we need people who put transformation before transaction. Leaders do not need to know everything in depth but they need to be adaptable, have a vision and a big picture. And they need to be ready for change, because it’s the only constant.

_ S.C.: Adaptability is going to be very important. With the many challenges businesses face, even when they have all the data to support their choices, companies often drag their feet when it comes to embracing change. The world is progressing rapidly, we need leaders who can move their companies forward and bring about change while adapting to an ever-changing world.

_ L.C.: Besides knowing where they are going, leaders need to acknowledge past mistakes to be able to grow from them, learn from them, and of course not make them again. Having a fresh way to look at things, boosted by curiosity and open-mindedness, is the best way to build a better world.

_ E.M.: It’s amazing because the intent of our founders, back in 1906, was to train and educate responsible leaders, citizen leaders. At the time, the focus was on caring for workers, but the core principles remain the same today. That’s why I’m confident that EDHEC will succeed in this next phase: it’s in our DNA. Twenty years ago everyone wanted to be in marketing or financial consulting, work for big company. Today, we’re seeing a generation who cares about ethics, about purpose, about impact. You also all talked a lot about change, and adaptability. It’s a key question for us: how can we teach change? Teaching people how to be agile and become change-makers is not easy, but that’s where I think broadening your horizons with new subjects will teach you how to adapt, how to learn and how to transpose knowledge from one field to another.

Moving on to technology and knowledge transmission: what do you think a Business School will look like 10 years from now?

_ S.C.: I think two things will play a critical role: data and the internet. With the Covid-19 crisis, a lot of schools have developed the capability to hold classes online or had to rethink the role of the campus. I don’t think this transformation will stop once the crisis is behind us. The infrastructures that have been developed proved their efficiency. Regarding data, it is already the most valuable commodity in the world, so subjects like Data Analytics and Machine Learning will not be cutting-edge but vital for all students and all Business Schools.

_ E.M.: Do you think your professors will be replaced by robots or machines then?

_ S.C.: No, nothing will replace in-person teaching because business needs real life, real experiences and real people. But the role of teachers will evolve, with many more tools at their disposal to enhance their teaching.

_ N.A.: I think differentiation will be in the Business School’s capacity to deliver a tailor-made experience to its students. All schools will have integrated technology to their learning platforms. But the ability to use machine learning to design the learning experience and personalize it to each and everyone’s taste and needs, will be a competitive factor.

_ S.F.: It will be more experiential with more specialized knowledge available thanks to technology and globalization. We’ll be able to have access to experts we couldn’t have in person, business cases we wouldn’t be able to experience without an augmented way of doing things.

To finish with a simple question, what do you want to learn and experience?

_ N.A.: Basic skills that will be expected from me in a company. Practical and modern business cases with the latest trends. And I also want to explore fields outside of the traditional Business School curriculum and find out how I can link them to my future career.

_ S.C.: I want to learn by doing. And keep on widening my horizons. Something like gamification has had a tremendous impact on my education at EDHEC. I have started to apply this to all my other classes and it’s been a true revelation.

_L.C.: I’ll take all that I can learn! And I want to be able to differentiate my diploma by choosing the classes most suited to my abilities and my plans. It needs to be like me, an expression of who I will be as a young professional.

_ S.F.: More than anything, I want to maintain a strong exposure to new and upcoming subjects. And I also want to keep meeting individuals with different backgrounds and experiences, that’s a very good way to grow.

_ E.M.: These are exceptional moments that you are going through, a new situation that is not easy to live day in day out. But you will realize later on that you have participated in something very strong, which will have built you up and also brought a certain amount of strength. A capacity for resilience specific to your generation. The crisis we are going through reinforces even more the need to act for society and future generations. I want to personally thank each of you so much for your involvement and for the great conversation we’ve just had. It truly is important to me and to our school to have you involved in designing this future.

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